Microsoft puts the brakes on Vista

Microsoft Corp. said its highly anticipated Windows Vista operating system will miss the holiday shopping window this year while the company irons out any remaining quality issues.

Jim Alchin, co-president of Microsoft’s platforms and services division, delivered the news late Tuesday via teleconference. Enterprise versions of the product will meet Microsoft’s November deadline, but those aimed at the consumer and small business market won’t be available until January 2007.

The delay is to assure product quality, said Alchin. “We won’t compromise on that. . . .Given that customers have wanted to be very precise, any mistakes might impact their business. We’ve decided to come out with a very high-assurance date they can count on.”

Alchin said the three main concerns with the operating system are: performance, application compatibility and security, particularly the latter, which has been “a driving factor in this release all along.

“When we’re done, we’re done. It’s just a question of how it’s being provided to the particular channels.”

The retail channel will experience the biggest impact, since Vista will fail to materialize for the all-important December shopping period, said Joe Wilcox, an analyst with Jupiter Research.

“Pretty much anyone involved with the operating system in the consumer market was preparing for a holiday blitz,” he said.

The vast majority of Microsoft’s Windows revenue (85 per cent) comes from OEM licensing, said Wilcox. “If most everyone gets Windows on new PCs and the new PCs won’t be really until 2007, that says it all.”

Patrick Power, managing partner of sales and marketing at OAM Computer Group, said the Vista delay won’t have a large impact on his business, since he serves enterprise clients but “it’s clearly something we’d like to see sooner.”

However, Power said that he’d rather see Microsoft take its time with a product like Windows rather than rush it to market.

“I think with Microsoft’s history, they’re being very diligent in that regard lately, and it’s the right thing to do. I think we clearly have to make sure we have a solid product available for the client and that’s the most important thing in my mind,” said Power.

Microsoft has heard the message that security is top of mind for users of all stripes and acts accordingly, said Wilcox.

“When Microsoft execs say security is the No. 1 priority, they really mean it. The security people have the authority to stop shipment of any product, including Windows,” he said.

The OEMs that ship laptops and PCs with Windows on-board will also feel the effect of the delay – some more than others. Dell might be able to cope with changes to shipping schedules, said IDC Canada Ltd. analyst Eddie Chan, since they build machines to order.

When asked for comment, a Dell spokesperson said in an e-mail: “In regards to the delay of Vista, Dell continues to look forward to shipping Microsoft Vista to their customers.”

PC maker Lenovo did not return calls for comment at press time. HP said in a statement that “as Microsoft is one of HP’s most valued and trusted partners, we fully support them in determining the most appropriate schedule for the Windows Vista launch.” A spokesperson from HP Canada was unavailable for comment at press time.

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